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Message for Shabir is New Delhi’s policy on Kashmir
|Srinagar: The debate about the probabilities of Kashmir history would continue inconclusively around that
momentous "if" about Shiekh Abdullah’s Kashmir accord of 1975. "If" the legendary Kashmir leader had been treated with more dignity by Indira Gandhi and given some more autonomy would 1990 still have happened? But "ifs" can hardly be debated with certainty.
Instead, an example was made out of Shiekh Abdullah. "Surrender for Survival" was the epilogue that the tallest Kashmiri accepted for a lifetime of sacrifice, vision and misplaced trust. History has however, a habit of deceiving its readers by looking too distant to catch up with the contemporary. That is what is happening in Kashmir. It happened to Shiekh’s political legatee and son Farooq and it is happening now to Shabir Shah. Both are victims of a similar fate. "Surrender for Survival" in one case and "Surrender before you speak" in another.
For keen analysts of Kashmir situation nothing has changed in the equation between New Dehli and Srinagar since 1947 when the state acceded to India. Shabir Shah is no ordinary political activist. He has invested a lifetime in his politics, the parameters of which may be hazy but the fact of it is not. At one time he was compared with Nelson Mandela and was declared a prisoner of conscience by the Amnesty International. He spent long years in Indian prisons which made up for his lack of articulation and historical depth.
Shabir had apparently burnt his boats the day he broke off from the Hurriyat Conference. There were many who didn’t doubt his sincerity, but an overwhelming majority of Kashmiris dismissed him as an acolyte who was keen to perform to a given agenda. He received eminent guests and emissaries, ranging from VP Singh and KC Pant to Ram Jethmalani and was toasted by Jimmy Carter, the former president of USA and an important international peace activist. But the inevitable, in his mysterious political career happened when LK Advani and A B Vajpayee banged doors on him after inviting him for talks. New Dehli obviously wanted him to swear by the constitution of India before he could get an audience with any government leader, a condition not applicable to Nagas, Mizos and a host of other rebel groups in North East. That was also a message to other possible candidates for talks with the government to find a way out of Kashmir imbroglio.
In a very sure manner, New Delhi has set the rules for any headway on political front in Kashmir. Not just has the gun to be abandoned as was demanded some time back but first qualification now is to come through the electoral route, which inevitably means giving up the separatist banner and joining the mainstream of politics. Looking at this stance from Srinagar may mean asking the bride to sleep with you before the wedding. But the developments within the country since early nineties and the rise of nationalist forces to power would make the same proposition democratic and nationalistic.
While this is true of those who are still shy of joining the electoral bandwagon, the rules for the "elected" representatives of the state are no different. Farooq Abdullah’s party which enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the assembly was made to drop the demand for autonomy before even a discussion with a non-official representative of government of India would meet its representative to discuss `devolution of power’.
New Delhi will have the satisfaction of being able to do its bidding through local leaders as it did through the mightiest of them and would not find any dearth of such leaders at any time. But, Shabir’s fate could act as a dampener in the immediate context of trying to find a peaceful solution to Kashmir through discussions between Srinagar and New Dehli.
The bottomline for the future of sub-continent would better be seen in the fact not of the surrender of the genuine leaders like Shiekh Abdullah but the more stark reality of even his accord not paving the way for peace. The less said about the lesser leaders is obviously better. It may not be of much use to talk to surrendered generals (Greater Kashmir).
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